Are We Really Better Off than Four Years Ago?

From Human Events:

As Michael Kinsley wrote in 1984, “a gaffe occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth.”

According to that definition, one prominent speaker at the Democratic National Convention, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, recently committed a gaffe when asked, “Can you honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?”

“No,” admitted O’Malley, “but that’s not the question …”

By the next day, O’Malley had gotten on message, saying “We are clearly better off as a country …”

The same message has been repeated by a number of DNC spokespeople: We are better off today than we were four years ago.


According to registered voters, O’Malley got it right the first time. Asked in a recent Gallup poll, “Would you say you and your family are better off than four years ago, or not?” a majority (55 percent) answered, “No, not better off.” Just 42 percent disagreed.

The question harks back to 1980, when candidate Ronald Reagan pointed to Jimmy Carter’s “misery index,” the sum of the unemployment and inflation rates. Asked, “are you better off today than you were four years ago?” most voters answered “No” back then too: Reagan swept into office in a landslide.

How has the misery index fared under President Obama?

Since Obama was inaugurated, the unemployment rate has risen from 7.8 to 8.3 percent, and the inflation rate from zero to 1.4 percent. Added together, the misery index has increased from 7.8 to 9.7 percent. In another throwback to Jimmy Carter, since Obama’s inauguration, the price of gas has more than doubled, from $1.81 to $3.79 per gallon.

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